AUGUSTA — After nearly 20 years as the administrator of Kennebec County, Robert Devlin has announced he will retire at the end of the year and leave the job he essentially created.

“It’s time,” Devlin said. “I’m going to be 71 in September.”

Earlier this month, Kennebec County commissioners hired Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group to conduct the search for the next county administrator. Gerrish is currently also conducting city manager searches for both Gardiner and Augusta.

Devlin said he had initially planned to retire about four years ago, but committed to commissioners to stay four more years.

Patsy Crockett, chairwoman of the Kennebec County Commission, said she knew Devlin before he came to Kennebec County through her work as a lobbyist and association manager for the Maine County Commissioners Association. She said she was pleased when he was hired as administrator.

“He’s got a great personality and a way of dealing with people,” Crockett said. “I like his leadership style. He certainly has a great knowledge of how counties need to be run in law, and he’s been very effective in the Legislature.”

Before Devlin came to Kennebec County, he was the deputy county manager for Cumberland County and lobbyist for the Maine Municipal Association. He also served as the director of the Medical Crisis Unit in Portland, and through his job he spent a great deal of time in Augusta. He was also considering the next step in his own career.

Two decades ago, administrators were rare in county government; for the most part, county commissioners had a more active role in running county government.

“At that time, each county had to go to the Legislature to get authority to hire a manager or administrator,” he said.

Devlin lobbied the Legislature for a change to allow counties to act on their own.

“In testimony, I said this will be called the Bob Devlin Future Employment Act,” he said.

Kennebec County Administrator Bob Devlin is seen Oct. 22, 2002, when he started working at the county seat in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

When Kennebec County indicated it was looking for an administrator, Devlin said he was interested.

Currently, only two of Maine’s 16 counties — Waldo and Franklin — don’t have administrators; they have clerks.

As county administrator, Devlin has been the chief administrator for Kennebec County, overseeing the administrative responsibilities of the county and preparing and maintaining oversight of the county’s annual spending plan and appearing before legislative committees and state agencies on county matters.

In many ways, the position is similar to a city or town manager’s job, but with one key difference: The county’s department heads are elected rather than appointed officials, adding a layer of management complexity because they don’t report either to the administrator or the commissioners.

Among Devlin’s early priorities were establishing policies to apply across all county departments, starting a human resources department that covered all county employees and bringing consistency to negotiating labor contracts.

“One of the biggest accomplishments was developing a capital improvement program with long-range planning,” he said.

That includes heating upgrades in the county building, the Kennebec County jail, and the Kennebec County courthouse, as well as mechanical system upgrades at the jail with the help of the county’s budget committee.

Devlin also worked to shift the county’s budget year from a calendar year to a July 1 fiscal year when the state Board of Corrections took over funding the jails across Maine. Doing so altered the county’s annual financial outlook, ending the need to secure and pay interest on a tax anticipation note to cover county expenses before county taxes were due in September.

During his tenure, he also worked with city and state Judicial Branch officials to site the Capital Judicial Center near the existing courthouse and restoring the historic courtroom in the county courthouse, among other things.

Kennebec County Administrator Bob Devlin, left, discusses county jail funding June 20, 2018, with House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, in the rotunda of the Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Randall Liberty was a sergeant with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office when he first met Devlin.

Now the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, Liberty said Devlin is respected and brings credibility to the issues he works on because of his experience.

“He was a transitional leader,” Liberty said. “When I was promoted to chief and then was elected, he was a mentor and coach to me. I learned much from him. I learned how to be a CEO of an organization.”

He said Devlin helped him understand human resources and budgeting, but also encouraged professional development by going to graduate school as Devlin had done himself, and attending the FBI Academy.”

“One of the things I also learned from him was not to walk away from tough decisions and tough topics,” Liberty said.

He said Devlin’s participation in the process of developing the Board of Corrections, whose mission was to unify county jails across the state and make them more efficient, was a key example of that.

“He was a catalyst to navigate those difficult meetings and topics. It was a difficult thing to do when you have many divergent interests,” Liberty said. “As a chief and young sheriff, I watched him navigate those relationships and holding people accountable. He took lumps for it, but he wasn’t afraid of it.”

And when there was overcrowding at the Kennebec County jail, Liberty credited Devlin with resolving that by adding a new pod at the jail to increase the number of inmates allowed.

During his time as administrator, Devlin has also forged a long-term working relationship with Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo, who announced his own retirement in April.

While they didn’t know each other then, they graduated a year apart at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.

When the commissioners decided to hire an administrator, they asked the city managers in Augusta, Gardiner and Waterville to be on a screening and interview committee to recommend a candidate. Bridgeo was joined by Jeffrey Kobrock and Michael Roy on the committee.

“I would have to say our judgments and instincts were spot on, because he’s done an outstanding job in his role as a county executive,” Bridgeo said. “He manages a complex organization that requires a lot of people skills.”

As the largest municipality in the county, Augusta pays the largest share of county assessment. Bridgeo said Devlin has always kept a limit on what the county seeks from cities and towns for funding because he appreciates what that means for county taxpayers.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.